The plans to use the moon for more than just placing a flag on the surface are becoming more and more concrete. The Reuters news agency reports that the US Federal Space Agency NASA and the US defense company Northrop Grumman have signed a contract to develop living quarters for the planned US space agency outpost in lunar orbit.
The astronauts will live and research in the so-called “Habitation And Logistics Outpost” (HALO). It is a central component of the Lunar Gateway. As part of NASA’s Artemis lunar program, the gateway is intended to support manned lunar missions.
Northrop Grumman will receive $ 935 million for the HALO bid. The defense company confirmed the conclusion of the contract on Friday. The contract forms the final point after the group had already been commissioned with a draft in the previous year. An exam in May went to NASA’s satisfaction.
Turnkey construction for the lunar orbit
Northrop Grumman will be responsible for assembling and testing the integrated HALO quarters and the solar propulsion module (PPE). The latter is being developed by the Maxar Group, whose subsidiary DigitalGlobe supplies, among other things, Google Maps with satellite images.
Part of the contract with Northrop Grumman is also the transport of the two central units and the preparations for the launch. NASA aims to launch the integrated spacecraft in November 2024 with a Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX. The decision for SpaceX was made in April.
A total of eleven countries have joined the Artemis project, with which the US space agency is trying to create standards for building long-term settlements on the lunar surface. Germany is not among the individual signatories, but Luxembourg, Italy and Great Britain are.
The ESA (European Space Agency) will contribute a lunar communication system that will enable high data rate communication between the lunar surface and the gateway. The ESA is also planning a refueling module.
HALO: Home office for moon missions
Astronauts should live and research in the HALO. The pressurized living area will provide command and control systems for the lunar outpost, as well as docking points for visiting spacecraft such as NASA’s Orion spacecraft, lunar landers and logistic supply vehicles. In addition, the module should serve as a backbone for control and energy distribution in the gateway. HALO will be expandable by docking additional residential units.
PPE and HALO are said to be the foundation of the gateway, which is supposed to be in an orbit that is a few tens of thousands of kilometers away from the lunar surface at the furthest point and within reach of lander at the closest point.
The design of HALO is based on the Cygnus spaceship, which to date has completed 15 supply missions to the International Space Station. Extensions are to be attached to three docking points, for example for an international habitat that is already being developed by ESA and JAXA.